CDC under fire for allegedly hoarding COVID-19 data
CDC under fire for allegedly hoarding COVID-19 data

CDC under fire for allegedly hoarding COVID-19 data

Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty

USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention is under fire for not publishing large portions of hospitalization data related to the COVID-19 pandemic that the organization has collected but failed to publish.

First reported by New York Times, CDC hospitalization data are broken down by age, race, and vaccination status. Two weeks ago, the government released data on the effectiveness of booster shots in adults under 65 years of age. Times reported that the CDC neglected to include data for individuals aged 18 to 49. The data showed that that group was least likely to benefit from COVID-19 vaccine boosters because they were already well protected by the first two doses.

According to TimesWithout the available data from people aged 18 to 49, experts advising the government have had to rely on data from Israel to make recommendations to boosters. Paul Offit, MD, a vaccine expert and consultant for Food and Drug Administration, told Times the data are considered unreliable for the United States given the different definitions of serious illness used by Israel and the US health authorities.

Criticism of the CDC points out that although the agency has collected huge amounts of information related to COVID-19 infections, it has not published the data. With reference to persons familiar with the CDC issue Times noted that much of the information withheld could help state and local public health officials. Data on age and race may help public health authorities identify the populations most at risk of serious infection, while detailed hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients, regardless of age, may provide more information on who may need them. a booster shot.

other than that Times noted that wastewater data collected from communities could also provide insight into potential viral outbreaks and new variants of concern. The report shows that the CDC only recently began providing more frequent updates of wastewater data, while some states and local governments have provided this data regularly since the beginning of the pandemic.

In more statements to Times, The CDC said it withheld publication of the data because “it was not yet ready for primetime.” Spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said the agency wanted to ensure that the data it published was accurate and actionable, so the information is less likely to be misinterpreted.

However, Daniel Jernigan, MD, the agency’s deputy director of public health science and surveillance, told Times that the enormous amounts of data on the pandemic that the CDC quickly collected revealed a weakness in the Agency’s data systems. That Times reported that these systems at the CDC as well as at the state level are “outdated and not ready to handle large amounts of data.” Jernigan said CDC researchers are trying to modernize the systems.

“We want better, faster data that can lead to decision-making and action at all levels of public health, which can help us eliminate the delay in data that has held us back,” Jernigan told the Times.

According to Nordlund, the CDC has received more than $ 1 billion to modernize its systems, which may help increase the pace.

In addition to outdated systems, the CDC is also a victim of bureaucracy. Several departments in the agency must give the green light before data can be published. CDC officials must notify the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House of the data it releases, creating further delays due to the political nature of the agencies involved.

The sample size of the data has also been an issue. Nordland told Times that the data collected represent only 10% of the population of the United States. This is the same amount of sample size that the CDC has used to track down the flu, but with the nature of the pandemic and the call for vaccination, there was concern that the data was distorted in the volatile political storm that has surrounded mass vaccination efforts.

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